Justice Samuel Chase

Justice Samuel Chase joined the U.S. Supreme Court on February 4, 1796, replacing Justice John Blair. Chase was born on April 17, 1741 in Somerset County, Maryland. He studied law in Annapolis and was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1761. Three years later, Chase joined the Maryland General Assembly, where he would serve for the next two decades. From 1774 to 1778, he was a member of the Continental Congress. Chase signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Chase served as a judge in the Maryland court system from 1788 to 1796, first in the Baltimore criminal court and then in the General Court of Maryland. On January 26, 1796, President George Washington nominated Chase to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate confirmed him on January 27, and he took the judicial oath about a week later. His most memorable opinion probably came in Calder v. Bull, which discussed the constitutional prohibition on ex post facto (retroactively applicable) laws and found that the Supreme Court could not strike down a state law for violating the constitution of that state.

Chase remains the only Supreme Court Justice to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. A committed Federalist who made no secret of his views, he incited the ire of President Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Republicans (Anti-Federalists) in Congress. The House of Representatives voted to impeach Chase on March 12, 1804, which sent the proceeding to the Senate. Although the chamber consisted of 25 Republicans and only nine Federalists, the Senate acquitted Chase on March 1, 1805. While a majority of Senators voted to convict him on three of the eight articles of impeachment, no article received the two-thirds majority needed to remove him.

After the impeachment efforts failed, Chase lived out the rest of his years on the nation’s highest tribunal. He died on June 19, 1811 in Baltimore and was buried there. Justice Gabriel Duvall replaced him on the Court.